With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: If Donald Trump wins, Republicans will control all three branches of government. There is no scenario in which Trump wins the presidency and Democrats retake the Senate. The GOP majority would confirm whomever he picks to replace Antonin Scalia for the Supreme Court – giving them the pivotal fifth vote again. If Trump found a way to win, House Republicans (who have a 59-seat majority) might only lose a handful of seats.

There are millions of voters who are uneasy with Trump yet currently plan to vote for him anyway. They think the system is broken and the country is on the wrong track. They lean to the right or they’re independents. They want change. They do not like Hillary Clinton and see the reality TV star as “the lesser of two evils.” Some on the right who dislike their party’s nominee care deeply about the judiciary. The refrain one hears constantly while interviewing folks like this from Ohio to Pennsylvania and Virginia to Iowa is: “What’s the worst that could happen?

Mike Pence’s strong debate performance reassured this constituency. These voters also look at someone like Paul Ryan and think he could help keep Trump in line.

But this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how politics works and the immense powers of the modern presidency. A President Trump would face few of the institutional constraints that most center-right pragmatists in search of justifications to support him assume:

-- If Ryan will not forcefully stand up to Trump when he’s a candidate, why would the speaker stand up to him when he’s the president? He already chose to collaborate politically with The Donald, so what would stop him from again collaborating on policy – even if it meant compromising on some of his supposed core convictions?

Yes, there is a huge ideological gulf between the two men, on trade, entitlements, immigration, infrastructure spending and much more. But while Ryan gently and awkwardly expresses disagreement, the congressman has  agreed to appear with Trump tomorrow at an event in his Wisconsin congressional district.

Some in the political press are obsessing about whether or not there will be a photo opp in which the two men grip and grin together. That is beside the point.

Last week, after all, Ryan declined to criticize Trump for his vicious attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.

Their joint appearance recalls when Ryan called Trump’s attacks on a federal judge “the textbook definition of a racist comment” only to say in the very next breath that he still supports him because he’s better than the alternative.

The excuse that many of Ryan’s allies give privately for this sort of behavior is that he’s just trying to save his majority so he has more seats and thus more leverage to negotiate with Hillary Clinton when she is president. They note that the party could lose badly if the bottom fell out from underneath Trump, and that it might have done so had the speaker had not endorsed him. His boosters say Ryan is successfully doing the delicate dance of cozying up to the nominee without fully embracing him. They point to his long Hamlet act and then tepid endorsement. And they insist that he would be much more assertive if it actually came to governing with Trump. They also think Trump would just want to score points and does not have a fixed ideology, so they could persuade him to embrace the House GOP's "Better Way” agenda.

-- In truth, there is always a “next election.” Starting Nov. 9, establishment Republicans will begin worrying about the 2018 midterm elections and even the 2020 elections. Many of the same dynamics preventing Ryan from breaking with Trump now will still be in play, maybe even more so, after the election. And Trump will have an even bigger bully pulpit – yes, it’s possible – than he has currently.

Many lawmakers in both chambers would be afraid of primary challenges from the Trump wing of the party – and the risk that a sitting president of their own party would come to their district to campaign against them.

And don’t forget that a President Trump would get to seize control of the Republican National Committee by picking Reince Priebus’s replacement as chairman.

-- Ryan himself has declared that he would use budget reconciliation, a procedural tactic that party leaders decried Democrats for using when they were out of power, to ram big-ticket initiatives through Congress if Trump becomes president. Repealing Obamacare and trillion-dollar tax cuts are likely at the top of the list, and Democrats would be utterly defenseless to stop them, Politico’s Ben Weyl reports. “Typically, party leaders offer at least the pretense of seeking bipartisanship when discussing their policy plans. But Ryan is saying frankly that Republicans would use (reconciliation) … to bypass Democrats entirely. It’s the same tool Republicans slammed Democrats for using to pass the 2010 health care law over their objections.”

“This is our game plan for 2017,” Ryan said at a news conference last week. “I’m tired of divided government. It doesn’t work very well. We’ve gotten some good things done. But the big things — poverty, the debt crisis, the economy, health care — these things are stuck in divided government, and that’s why we think a unified Republican government’s the way to go.”

Republicans will not have a super-majority in the Senate, but in addition to the reconciliation process, leadership could use the nuclear option to allow a simple majority to force through other parts of the Trump agenda.

-- The Imperial Presidency is real: Even if GOP leaders in the legislative branch do not go along, Trump would still have more than enough power to wreak as much havoc on the system as he wants. He would not need Ryan to go along with his proposed Muslim ban, for example, to dramatically and unilaterally restrict who can enter the country. “Ultimately, the entire executive branch is corruptible by one person because constitutionally, the executive branch is one person,” the Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes writes on the Lawfare blog. “Everyone else is just his arms, hands, and fingers. That means that over time, the executive branch under Donald Trump becomes Donald Trump.”

-- Trump could quickly roll back most of what Barack Obama has accomplished, administratively undercutting the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord and even the Affordable Care Act. Maybe his supporters would love that. More power to him, some will say.

-- But here are three other powers to consider:

1. The president appoints the director of the Internal Revenue Service...

2. He (or she) gets to choose the attorney general and nominate U.S. attorneys. “A President unfazed by criticism, and willing to ignore advice about the limits of his lawful authority from the Office of Legal Counsel, actually can get quite a lot done,” writes New York University public policy professor Mark Kleiman. “No president in the modern era — even (Richard) Nixon — has dared to say what President Jackson said about a Supreme Court ruling: ‘Mr. Justice Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.’ But what if we had a President who was willing to behave that way, surrounded by advisers egging him on to do so? … Institutions do not maintain themselves.”

3. Last but not least, Trump would basically have a free hand on foreign policy and national security. One of the reasons so many veterans of GOP White Houses have come out publicly against Trump is because they know firsthand how relatively few checks there are on a president when it comes to matters overseas. The National Security Council staff is not accountable to Congress. The president controls the nuclear arsenal.

-- The Post’s Editorial Board, which is independent of the newsroom, has published a series on “the damage Mr. Trump could do” if elected. Previous editorials have focused on Trump’s ability to deport freely, end the era of American global leadership, wreck progress on global warming and destroy the world economy. Today’s edition wraps it all together: “His candidacy forces us to confront the extent to which democracy depends on leaders adhering to a set of norms and traditions. … Mr. Trump has made clear his contempt for those virtues, norms and traditions … Handed the immense powers of the presidency, what could such a man do? The honest answer: No one can be sure. … Yes, Congress has the power to remove a president who ignores the law. But given the easy GOP capitulation to such an obviously unfit candidate, how far would Mr. Trump have to go for a likely Republican House to impeach him?

Good morning from SACRAMENTO, California, and welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The nation added a solid 156,000 jobs in September, a major indicator of health for the labor market. From Chico Harlan: “The unemployment rate rose to 5 percent. In August, the nation added 151,000 jobs. The labor market, with months of steady hiring, has helped pull the U.S. economy through a recent period of otherwise lackluster growth. Layoffs are at a four-decade low, wages are rising, and consumers are steadily pumping that money back into the economy. But the U.S. still faces significant challenges, including paltry business investment, and the International Monetary Fund this week said it expected the nation’s economy to grow just 1.6 percent this year, the lowest mark in five years.”

-- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in negotiating a peace agreement to end the country’s decades-long civil conflict, despite voters’ shock rejection of a peace deal just days ago. “There is a real danger that the peace process will come to a halt and that civil war will flare up again,” said committee chair Kaci Kullmann Five. “We hope it will encourage all good initiatives and all the parties who could make a difference in this process in Colombia.” (Michael Birnbaum)

--Hurricane Matthew has been downgraded to a Category 3, but still dangerous, storm: "Early Friday, the storm weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, but still packed dangerous 120 mph winds. By mid-morning, the National Hurricane Center reported that the center of the storm was “hugging the coast of Central Florida” as it continued north." The storm is tracking over central Florida, taking aim at "the shoreline just south of Cape Canaveral, bringing pounding surf, storm surges and possibly up to a foot of rain in some areas after Matthew roared through the Caribbean leaving widespread destruction and nearly 300 dead in Haiti."

More from Renae Merle and Mark Berman: "As Matthew approached, life’s normal routines across the southeastern coast gave way to the bedlam of a looming storm. Emergencies were declared, evacuations ordered, schools closed, scores of flights grounded and college football games canceled or postponed. Authorities stressed the dangers of the storm, while the National Hurricane Center issued a series of foreboding bulletins warning of 'potentially disastrous impacts for Florida' and 'life-threatening' flooding over the coming days in that state as well as Georgia and the Carolinas. The National Weather Service warned that the gusting winds could leave some places 'uninhabitable for weeks or months.'"

--“The coastal section that Matthew has targeted north of Palm Beach has not seen a hurricane this strong make landfall in the entire period of record since 1850,” The Capital Weather Gang’s Brian McNoldy and Angela Fritz report. “The results could be catastrophic.” (A New York Times reporter recalls her terrifying experience of being trapped in a Florida City motel during a Category 5 hurricane -- where the roof was ripped off and pressure from 165 mph winds literally sealed doors shut.)

-- Despite the storm, Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend the state’s Tuesday voter registration deadline, denying a request from the Clinton campaign. “Everybody has had a lot of time to register,” Scott said. “On top of that, we’ve got lots of opportunities to vote: Early voting, absentee voting and Election Day. So, I don’t intend to make any changes.”

From the Florida Democratic Party's communications director:

-- Clinton’s campaign has asked cable systems in Florida not to run its ads on the Weather Channel. Republicans yesterday attacked the $63,000 in reservations as opportunistic. Eric Trump called it “evil and sick.” (Politico)

-- Newly-disclosed emails show top Obama administration officials were in close contact with Clinton’s nascent presidential campaign in early 2015 about the potential fallout over revelations about her private State Department email server. Leading today's Wall Street Journal: “Their discussion included a request from the White House communications director to her counterpart at the State Department to see if it was possible to arrange for [John Kerry] to avoid questions during media appearances about Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement. In another instance, a top State Department official assured an attorney for Mrs. Clinton that, contrary to media reports, a department official hadn’t told Congress that Mrs. Clinton erred in using a private email account.” While the exchange likely poses no legal or ethical concerns, it highlights the “revolving door” between the State Department, the White House and the Clinton campaign as she ramped up efforts for her presidential bid.

-- This could be a big coup in the war on sex trafficking: The CEO of Backpage.com was arrested last night after cops raided the company's headquarters. Carl Ferrer, 55, was detained in Houston on a California warrant and faces felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping, the Texas and California attorney generals announced. Ferrer had just returned to the country on a flight from Amsterdam. “Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal,” said California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world’s top online brothel. (Katie Mettler)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Pro-Brexit politician Steven Woolfe collapsed face down in the European Parliament after brawling with colleagues from his own party in France. The scuffle occurred after Woolfe said he was considering defecting to the Conservatives, leading another member to hit him with a right hook punch to his forehead that caused him to seize and lose consciousness. He is recovering from his head injury at a local hospital. (Karla Adam)
  2. Obama commuted the prison sentences of 102 nonviolent drug offenders. In total, he has pardoned 774 inmates – more than the previous 11 presidents combined – and said he will continue to do so until the end of his term. (Sari Horwitz)
  3. New data recovered from last week's New Jersey train crash shows the commuter train was moving at twice the legal speed before slamming into the Hoboken terminal. The train operator has told investigators that he has no memory of the crash(Faiz Siddiqui and Martine Powers)
  4. The Catholic cardinal in New York announced an independently-mediated compensation program for victims who were sexually abused by church leaders, trying to get victims to waive their right to sue in exchange for financial compensation. Critics argue that the new plan suggests the archdiocese wants to quietly settle claims before the state reforms its statute of limitations law, which would expose the church to more lawsuits. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)
  5. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level this week since mid-April, another encouraging sign of job security in the country. And a four-week average of individuals seeking jobless aid dropped to its lowest level since December 1973. (AP)
  6. Lawmakers in Pakistan advanced a bill to combat the practice of “honor killings," seeking to curb a spike in the number of brutal slayings in the country -- and to close the loophole that allows many killers to go free. (AP)
  7. Two senior North Korean officials defected this week in Beijing, following the escape of the country’s deputy ambassador and several other high-profile officials who have sought refuge from Pyongyang this year. (Anna Fifield)
  8. Police in India charged more than 70 call center employees with fraud and wrongful impersonation this week, saying the computer-savvy employees may have posed as IRS officers and conned Americans out of “millions.” (Rama Lakshmi)
  9. Bill Cosby’s attorneys launched a comprehensive effort to have his sexual assault charges dropped, claiming that, among other factors, the ex-comedian will not receive a fair trial because of his race. (LA Times)
  10. Hundreds of sinister clown threats have erupted at universities and grade schools across the country, prompting a spike in campus lockdowns and arrests. Officials are struggling with how to properly address the threats, which have given way to national hysteria. (Joe Heim and T. Rees Shapiro)
  11. A rash of violent adult fighting has broken out at Chuck E. Cheese restaurants across the country, with parents using the popular children’s birthday party venue to pick fights or settle old scores. Pennsylvania police said they were called to one location 17 times in 18 months. And in another recent incident, a child’s first birthday party spiraled into a 50-person brawl. (Peter Holley)  
  12. A Brooklyn artist known for his biting social commentary has unveiled his newest project – a satirical haunted house called “Doomocracy,” inspired by government systems seemingly beyond our control. The exhibit replaces traditionally frightening figures with actors portraying Wall Street executives and drone pilots. “The strange thing about this project is that the worse things are in the news, the better it is for us,” said the artist. (New York Times)

THE DAILY DONALD:

-- Trump held a town hall event in New Hampshire last night, insisting the forum was not a “mock session” to prepare for the impending town-hall-style debate against Clinton. "This has nothing to do with Sunday,” he said. “We're just here because we just wanted to be here." In fact, the gathering was hardly a preview of his face-off in St. Louis, where Trump and Clinton will field spontaneous questions from voters and moderators, says Sean Sullivan. This event was closed to the public; the campaign invited people to attend and submit written questions in advance, and it was moderated by conservative radio host Howie Carr. Asked by Carr whether he wanted to be told when his two minutes allotted for answering each question were up, Trump quipped: “If I’m doing well, don’t call me.” And he was not pressed on his taxes, or his recent comments about women’s physical appearances, both of which are expected to receive significant attention on Sunday.

Instead, Trump used the evening to attack Clinton. He alleged with no evidence that she is actually “resting” when she claims to be taking time off the trail for debate prep. "He went after Sen. Mark Kirk for not supporting his presidential bid. And he knocked journalists John Harwood and John King, as well as the media in general and even the Commission on Presidential Debates."

-- Which Trump will be on display in St. Louis? Jenna Johnson says he “appeared more controlled” on both Wednesday and Thursday. He’s been sticking with scripted speeches, (mostly) avoiding interviews, and sending tweets that appear to be “closely edited” – if not written outright – from his staff. He also notably abandoned his plans to attack Clinton’s infidelity in the upcoming debate, saying he plans to focus on “policies for the future” instead. “In another move typical for an ordinary campaign but not for his, Trump issued a somber statement Thursday urging those in the path of Hurricane Matthew to follow local evacuation orders because ‘nothing is more important than the safety of your family.’ He left it to the Republican National Committee to attack Clinton’s campaign for running commercials on the Weather Channel during the storm’s buildup.”

-- Mike Pence disavowed Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, claiming that his running mate “no longer supports” the controversial campaign promise. “That’s not Trump’s position now,” the Indiana governor said on CNN. But his statement comes as the Republican nominee has yet to formally abandon the proposal himself. And Trump’s campaign website still contains a statement on preventing Muslim immigration, which says he is “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.” (Jenna Johnson)

-- Another reminder that The Donald is not a Reagan Republican --> “Trump personally lobbied Congress to give real estate developers bigger tax breaks,” by Steven Mufson and Max Ehrenfreund: “In 1986, [President Reagan] and Congress came together to pass a landmark tax reform bill that streamlined tax brackets, cut rates, closed loopholes and eliminated tax breaks. Reagan declared it ‘a sweeping victory for fairness.’ [Trump], however, wanted the loopholes and tax breaks back.” Testifying before the House Budget committee in 1991, Trump called the 1986 legislation an ‘absolute catastrophe’ that had pushed the real estate business into an ‘absolute depression.’ ‘To fix the situation, Trump advocated a combination of higher tax rates for the rich and the restoration of special exemptions for real estate investment. The benefits became part of a suite of tax breaks that have buoyed the real estate industry and the wealthy developers behind it. Now the Republican presidential nominee, Trump … has invoked Reagan’s tax legacy as a model for a new ‘revolution.’ That sentiment is at odds with his [1991 testimony], when Trump argued that the 1986 reform ‘caught many developers off guard’ and ‘undermined deals’ conceived under the previous tax rules.”

-- “Voters are being asked to reconcile two diametrically opposed views of Trump: his own narrative that he is a financial wizard who simply used the laws of the country to protect himself, and Hillary Clinton’s contention that he is a rapacious and unrestrained capitalist who ‘abuses his power’ and ‘games the system.’ Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Drew Harwell write. Back in 1987, the real estate developer was soaring – but was ultimately undone by his own bad bets: “Trump wanted a third casino — his grandest yet — and he made a move on the hulking, unfinished Taj Mahal,” O'Harrow Jr. and Harwell write. “Analysts had warned that Atlantic City’s gaming market was cooling. But Trump charged ahead. [And] contrary to a stark promise he made to regulators under oath … he financed the Taj project with $675 million in junk bonds.” A confidential report produced in June 1990 showed only three of its 22 assets were profitable. The report also made a startling claim about Trump’s net worth, saying it had plunged to negative $295 million.

Facing the possibility of personal bankruptcy, Trump turned his attention to a $100 million line of credit he had with Bankers Trust, the key to his survival in coming years. In an interview for “Trump Revealed,” Trump said he drained the account while his bankers were on vacation and could not block such a large transaction. “I said, ‘Draw it down,’ Trump said. ‘I took everything out of the bank.’ When the bankers found out what had happened, they ‘went absolutely berserk.’” Trump viewed it as ingenious.

-- More evidence of Russia’s influence on Trump --> A Republican lobbyist was earning hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting one of Vladimir Putin’s top priorities at the same time he was helping shape Trump’s first major foreign policy speech. From Politico’s Ben Schreckinger and Julia Ioffe: “In the first two quarters of 2016, the firm of former Reagan administration official Richard Burt received $365,000 for work he and a colleague did to lobby for a proposed natural-gas pipeline owned by a firm controlled by the Russian government … The pipeline, opposed by the Polish government and the Obama administration, would allow Russian gas to reach central and western European markets while bypassing Ukraine and Belarus, extending Putin’s leverage over Europe. [And] this spring, Burt helped shape Trump’s first major foreign policy address … [recommending] that Trump take a more ‘realist,’ less interventionist approach to world affairs.” Trump’s April speech sounded those themes and called for greater cooperation with Russia. Today, by the way, is Putin’s birthday.

-- Thirty more former GOP congressmen urged fellow Republicans not to vote for Trump, blasting him in an open letter as being “manifestly unqualified” for the presidency and “making a mockery” of their principles. "He offends our allies and praises dictators,” they wrote. “His public statements are peppered with lies. He belittles our heroes and insults the parents of men who have died serving our country. Every day brings a fresh revelation that highlights the unacceptable danger in electing him to lead our nation." They do not endorse Clinton. (CNN)

-- A group of Chicago city aldermen are pushing an ordinance to strip Trump’s name from a plaza in the city, slamming him for "painting a distorted caricature of Chicago" on the campaign trail and for "comparing our great city to a decimated, war-torn country. The measure could take about a month to be enacted, but it seems to have the votes. (Chicago Tribune)

-- Rudy Giuliani announced he is taking a leave of absence from the law firm he joined earlier this year, saying he will spend the final month of the general election stumping full-time on Trump’s behalf. A spokesman for Greenberg Traurig LLP said he wants to return in November. (WSJ)

THE DAILY HILLARY:

-- Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Clinton could run up an “insurmountable lead” in Florida, North Carolina and Nevada ahead of Election Day because of early voting, “effectively deciding” the outcome of those battleground states. From Anne Gearan: “Democrats expect that at least 40 percent of votes will be cast ahead of Nov. 8 in battleground states that allow early voting,” Mook told reporters on a conference call. He also claimed early indications in Florida and Ohio are positive for Democrats, citing a small lead in Florida and a shrinking deficit in the Buckeye State. His comments come as both Democrats and Republicans predict success from a record mail-in vote in Florida, with some 2.7 million residents requesting to vote by mail, compared to 1.8 million in 2012. Mook claimed Democrats are “winning” this day-to-day tabulation of mail-in-ballots, citing a 77   percent increase among Hispanics in mail-in ballot requests.

-- Want to know where Clinton’s turnout operations are under the most pressure? Just watch where Michelle Obama campaigns. From the New York Times’ Amy Chozick: “Mrs. Obama has made only about a half-dozen campaign appearances for Mrs. Clinton in the general election, each carefully approved by the White House. But the first lady’s reluctance to campaign means that the events she does attend speak volumes about the places Mrs. Clinton views as most critical in November. She has appeared in North Carolina, at college campuses in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. — all areas where Mrs. Clinton needs to drive up turnout among blacks and younger voters.” “She chooses her moments, and she has made clear to her staff and the Democratic Party that she wants to go places where she can make a difference,” said Peter Slevin, the author of “Michelle Obama: A Life.” “If a candidate is up by 15 or down by 15, you’re not going to see Michelle Obama there.”

-- Barack Obama’s approval rating is at its highest level since his first year in office, according to a CNN/ORC poll, continuing a seven-month streak in which his approval has been at the 50 percent mark or higher. But partisan differences persist: while the president is up 12 points among Democrats and 14 percent among independents, he’s only gotten a two-point bump from Republican voters since September of last year. 

-- Alaska Dispatch News, “The untold story of Hillary Clinton's 1969 summer in Alaska,” by Michelle Theriault Boots and Erica Martinson: “For decades, Alaskans have been kicking around versions of the same story: A young Hillary Rodham improbably placed in Alaska, elbow deep in fish guts. Clinton herself has used the tale to salt her life story with a measure of earthy experience, [dedicating a paragraph in her 2003 biography to the summer she spent ‘sliming fish.’ But that's about all most people ever knew about the time the now-Democratic presidential nominee spent in Alaska. … (Records) from 1969 reveal new details about what Hillary Rodham did in Alaska, and who she came here with. Still, the part Clinton talks about the most — the Valdez slime line — is the part we know the least about.”

THE BATTLEGROUNDS:

-- Dave Weigel attended a focus group of undecided millennial voters in Philadelphia yesterday. He found that most of the eight-person group was on board with the Democratic agenda -- though they continue to struggle over how to cast their vote – and have relatively bleak views of both candidate. Four key points from his write-up: 

  • They despise Trump. Asked to describe Trump with whatever words came to mind, every member of the group came up with a negative word: “Bully.” “Evil.” “Racist.” “Misogynist.” “Bigot.” Only one member thought Trump was “smart” in his approach to terrorism. No one else defended a single aspect of Trump's campaign or persona.
  • They were more nuanced when it came to Clinton: Asked to assign terms to the Democratic nominee, members used more balanced terms such as “Career politician.” “Experienced.” “Shady but knowledgeable.” “Untrustworthy but stable.”
  • Gary Johnson’s foreign policy gaffes may have cost him: No one in the group said that the Libertarian candidate was his or her top choice for president.
  • They're counting on something — an assassin, impeachment — to prevent Trump from doing too much damage: One member paralyzed the group with laughter after darkly floating the idea that Trump would “probably be assassinated” as commander-in-chief. “He's going to be in court most of the time as president,” said another member. “He's going to get impeached.”

-- A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll of New Hampshire shows Clinton holding just a 2-point lead over Trump, putting the two in a statistical dead heat. Meanwhile, Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte continues to lead in her Senate reelection bid, besting Gov. Maggie Hassan by 6 points (47-41).

-- In Florida: Beverly Young, the outspoken widow of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, posted on Facebook that she is voting for Charlie Crist over former Young aide David Jolly for the Congressional seat that her husband represented, the Tampa Bay Times’s Adam Smith reports. “Mrs. Young has been fiercely critical of Crist in the past too, but had a falling out with Jolly shortly after he won the special election and laid off staffers who used to work for Young. On Facebook Mrs. Young said she ‘can't believe Jolly is still saying Bill is his mentor, when Bill would be totally disgusted and ashamed of how he has handed his district of 50 years.’ Jolly's campaign noted that Mrs. Young in 2013 told Crist to stay away from the congressman's memorial, citing his ‘transparent attempts to manipulate the political arena.’”

-- Hillary will a rally in Detroit on Monday, the latest Clinton to campaign in Michigan. The voter registration deadline there is Tuesday. Then she’s going back to Ohio the next day.

-- George W. Bush is going to North Carolina next week to raise money for Richard Burr. He’s headlining fundraisers for the vulnerable senator on Tuesday in Charlotte and Raleigh. Bush has stumped for Todd Young in Indiana, and he’s hosted fundraisers for Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). On Tuesday, he appeared at a fundraiser for Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.). (The Hill)

-- The bigger picture: How much is Trump hurting down-ballot Republicans? “Public polls released since Trump’s post-debate tailspin have not yet shown a major impact on key Senate races or the generic congressional ballot question that tends to be the most reliable indicator in the battle for the House,” Mike DeBonis and Kelsey Snell write. “Only in four states — Arizona, New Hampshire, Nevada and Ohio — have Democratic candidates or their allies funded television ads that link GOP Senate candidates to Trump. Instead, races are largely being fought on familiar ground on a state-by-state, district-by-district basis, with messages largely tailored to the specific candidates, issues and political climates. That reflects the fact that loyal Republicans have become more comfortable with Trump as their party’s nominee, a shift of the Senate battleground into redder states, and … a notable display of discipline from GOP Senate candidates who have been peppered with Trump questions for months.”

-- “Trump is lightning rod in debate between candidates in Northern Virginia race,” by Jenna Portnoy: “During the first debate with her Democratic challenger Thursday, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) called herself an independent advocate for Northern Virginia in the Republican-controlled House, and never once uttered the name [Trump]. But Democrat LuAnn Bennett could not stop talking about Trump, hoping the GOP presidential candidate will sink down-ballot Republicans like Comstock and turn the 10th Congressional District seat blue for the first time in a generation. Bennett, 63, worked Trump into her answers on the economy, climate change and immigration — a strategy that sometimes elicited chuckles from the crowd at the debate … In seeking a second term, Comstock has focused on constituent services and issues that she says are important to Northern Virginia, while Bennett has tried to paint the congresswoman as out of step with the district’s moderate voters on national concerns. [Now], both parties are pouring millions of advertising dollars into the district, which they consider among the most competitive this year.”

-- Should Trump falter badly in the second debate, Republican congressional candidates may take it as a cue to flee openly from their nominee, two senior Republicans involved at high levels of the campaign told the New York Times. “Trump has already slipped perceptibly in public polls, trailing widely this week in Pennsylvania and by smaller margins in Florida and North Carolina — three states he cannot afford to lose. But private polling by both parties shows an even more precipitous drop, especially among independent voters, moderate Republicans and women, according to a dozen strategists from both parties … Liesl Hickey, a Republican strategist involved in several House races in swing states, said she was dismayed by a sudden exodus of independent voters in more diverse parts of the country. ‘They are really starting to pull away from Trump,’ said Ms. Hickey, describing his soaring unpopularity with independents as entering ‘uncharted territory.’”

A Republican who spoke with Mitch McConnell tells the Times on background that the Senate majority leader was alarmed by Trump’s erratic behavior after he lost the first debate, including the attacks on the former Miss Universe and his suggestion that HRC is unfaithful to Bill. “Mr. McConnell expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not have bottomed out yet and could lose even more support among women,” Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns reported on the front page of yesterday’s paper.

-- Gary Johnson announced he will give a major foreign policy address today: The speech at the University of Chicago comes as the Libertarian nominee seeks to recover from a series of high-profile gaffes, in which he could not recall the Syrian city of Aleppo or name the leader of North Korea.

Ahead of the speech, the former New Mexico told Katie Couric that he would pardon Edward Snowden because “no one has been hurt by these disclosures.” “I’d like everybody who is watching this interview to watch ‘Citizen Four,’” he said. “I thought that was really revealing. The documentary won an Academy Award.” (Yahoo News video)

FOX FEUD:

-- Hosts Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity made nice last night. Kelly called out Hannity for throwing softballs when Trump comes on his show, and Hannity fired back on Twitter that his colleague in in the tank for Clinton.

-- Kelly’s contract comes up for renewal in 2017, and this might make her more likely to leave. “It may be too late to keep her,” media columnist Erik Wemple notes.

-- “In some ways, the Fox News dilemma is a microcosm of the GOP’s dilemma,” writes conservative Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. “Does it want to be a serious center-right party dedicated to good governance and building an electoral majority, or does it want to be the party of [Trump] — ignorant, divisive, mean-spirited and racist? … Hannity’s behavior is so inappropriate that one has to wonder whether he is trying to get booted … Nevertheless, the responsibility is Fox’s. If it cares about the reputations of quality news figures (e.g. Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, James Rosen) it will dump Hannity or relegate him to 21st Century Fox’s entertainment division. Fox cannot be both a serious outlet and tolerate Hannity’s attack on the integrity of its news people. The latter should be letting their bosses know in no uncertain terms: It is time to choose between the Fox News brand and the Hannity brand. The two are incompatible.”

-- Max Boot, a conservative Never Trumper, writes critically of “Hannity”: “The right wing has created its own echo chamber which is increasingly disconnected from reality. There are millions of Americans who share Trump’s outré beliefs — which helps to explain why his presidential campaign has done better than expected. But in the long term, the right’s addiction to its own news has become destructive — it promotes the election of tea party absolutists to Congress and the nomination of presidential candidates who have trouble appealing to swing voters.”

-- “Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze is coming apart, suffering from a lack of editorial direction, staff attrition and internal discord,” Michelle Fields reports for the Huffington Post. “The site, which Beck launched in 2010 … has dropped from 25 employees on its editorial side to just six.” A source said the mood among rapidly diminishing news team is “somber,” with remaining employees scrambling for an exit. Former and current employees all blamed upper-level management for the site’s troubles: There have been four CEOs since 2010, and two of them left in a span of six months in 2015.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Evan McMullin announced his running-mate, Mindy Finn:

A Dallas Morning News video  clip of Ted Cruz phone-banking for Trump -- without mentioning his name -- has gone viral:

It's now a meme (click to watch):

The Drudge Report drew wide criticism for downplaying the storm:

From our Capital Weather Gang:

What it's like to face this kind of storm:

Rapper Vanilla Ice might not have as much juice as Drudge, but he's still not setting a good example:

And there's this:

Woops -- New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, a master at putting his foot in his mouth, was not on message when asked about investigations into goings on at City Hall:

Sen. Steve Daines is back home in Montana:

Donald Trump Jr. stopped by Sean Duffy's office:

Jon Huntsman snapped this selfie with Joe Lieberman:

HOT ON THE LEFT

“‘Evil Sodomites’ Now Being Blamed For Hurricane Matthew,” from HuffPost: “You just can’t win in the eyes of right-wing conservatives if you’re an ‘evil sodomite.’ The latest disaster the [LGBT] community is being blamed for is Hurricane Matthew, which has already hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic is gearing up to pound Florida and the Carolinas over the coming days. …Andrew Bieszad, a contributor for Shoebat.com, recently wrote that Orlando and Savannah may be responsible for the massive storm and the damage that the cities will soon incur, as they both planned Pride parades this month. Bieszad cites the Biblical Old Testament tales of God punishing the Hebrews with natural disasters to back up his claims. He wrote: ‘Now we know that Florida is an area that is infected with sin, especially cities such as Miami and Orlando, which are veritable dens of sodomy.’ Maybe one day queers will stop having to take the blame from conservatives for the horrors of the world ― but it seems that day is not today.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Only 54 percent of illegal aliens who crossed U.S.-Mexico border were caught,” from the Washington Examiner: “Approximately half of those who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border were not caught by authorities, according to an internal [DHS report] … Only 54 percent of illegal entrants were apprehended in fiscal 2015. That number was down from the estimated 81 percent capture rate Homeland Security has cited in public reports, indicating the federal agency may be trying to inflate its effectiveness to voters. The May report will not be issued in its 98-page entirety to the press or public. ‘DHS does not believe it is in the public interest to release, and it would be irresponsible to make policy or other judgments on the basis of analysis that is incomplete and remains a work in progress,’” said DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron.

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Kaine is in Las Vegas. Bernie Sanders holds rallies in Keene and Nashua, N.H.; Elizabeth Warren speaks in Madison and Milwaukee. Pence campaigns in Strongsville and Rossford, Ohio.

At the White House: Obama speaks at a DCCC event and then a DNC roundtable in Chicago. Biden speaks at an event for Clinton in Bristol, Pa.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“You can be sure I am fully innocent,” he writes. “In fact, more than 100 percent innocent. … I am an American Political Prisoner.” -- Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who is serving a one-year sentence in federal prison for violating mine safety laws, has written a rambling pamphlet

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Don’t forget your umbrella! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts some potential drizzle ahead: “Reinforced clouds likely dominate as air off of the Bay and Atlantic continues to wedge eastward into our region. A northeasterly 5-10 mph fetch of steady wind blows … [and] isolated light showers, especially later in the afternoon, are slightly (20 percent) possible. High temperatures likely hover in the 60s, but a few spots could get to around 70 with a peek of sunshine.”

-- Gov. Larry Hogan’s approval has spiked to record highs since he began expressing his outspoken disavowal of Trump, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. The Maryland governor now holds a 71 percent approval rating, up five points since the spring and 10 points from a year ago. And 75 percent of people in the state said they approve of Hogan’s rejection of Trump, including 3 out of 4 political independents and more than 9 in 10 Democrats. (Republicans are split, with 43 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.)

-- A D.C. Council panel advanced “death with dignity” legislation allowing physicians to prescribe fatal medication to terminally-ill patients. The highly-controversial measure has been subject to intense debate – with patients arguing their right to be free from prolonged suffering, and religious leaders and some in the medical community arguing it is morally wrong. (Fenit Nirappil)

-- Police are looking for a man who they say started a fire at the Pentagon City Metro station. He was captured on video holding a sign around 8 a.m., though it is unclear what it says or if it is somehow related to the blaze. (Dana Hedgpeth)

-- Two D.C. animal shelters helped evacuate cats and dogs stuck at coastal shelters in South Carolina, as part of an effort to rescue homeless animals trapped in the path of natural disasters. Once the animals undergo medical examinations, they will be available for adoption in our area. (Dana Hedgpeth)

-- Michelin Guide debuted its Bib Gourmand list of the best cheap-eats in D.C., with a list of venues where you can get two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. (Maura Judkis)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

This satellite image of Hurricane Matthew makes it look like a skull (click to watch):

Trump's spokeswoman response to criticism of his Muslim ban? "So what? They're Muslim" (click to watch):

Here's video of Pence saying Trump no longer stands by the Muslim ban (click to watch):

Trump released an ad promising to lower childcare costs:

Ana Navarro went after Trump, hard, on CNN (click to watch):

Seth Meyers interviewed Chelsea Clinton:

Selina Meyer got in on the debate about how to pronounce Nevada:

Chuck Schumer, who is coasting to an easy reelection in New York, released an ad of him hanging out at a Buffalo Bills tailgate party: